Status Reckless

“And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Romans 5:5 (NIV) 

It gets me every time.

I am always taken by surprise.

Six months later and I do not see the trend ending any time soon.

What do I do?

I hold hands and cups of coffee.

I run between healthcare staff and family and sit in the waiting room with children who are too young to witness the adults in their lives fall apart emotionally.

I speak prayers and I sit silently, tears being the only expression close to, though not quite, capable of communicating the storm of grief taking hold.

I witness the strength and heart of the staff with awe and their tears with reverence for what they voluntarily experience out of their love for the person, for each beautiful and individual life.

And I hope.

I know the expectations, I know the probable outcome, I understand that if I have been called in, whatever chance there may be is small, and not promised.

And I expect the unexpected.

It’s not a half hope. It is not a “but God could” hope. It is not a last ditch hope.

It is complete, all in, God can hope. It is reckless hope.

And I am always taken by surprise. Because that kind of hope, against every odd, never considers the other outcome, until it arrives.

My heart always stutters in shock, surprise crashing down like a tidal wave. As I reach up for protection, He is reaching out in assurance. And I can stand and be still on the inside while walking through it on the outside.

I can get tissues and chairs. I can speak with family and safeguard sacred moments. I can remain out of the way (at least attempt to) and be readily available. I can give hugs and provide space. I can listen to stories and honor a need for silence.

I can make it home after helping family and friends head to homes that are somehow emptier in a world that makes a little, or a lot, less sense.

And then the wave comes. It has to you know. I’m not in it alone. But it still has to come down.

And I let it all wash out. Every shard of hope on trial.

Of course the defense is prepared and truth reigns.

He heard my prayers. He began answering them immediately. And yes, He was victorious.

In His way and in His time. His ways and His thoughts both higher than mine. His love incomprehensibly complete.

No matter how it feels, His truth reigns.

Not that He is unfeeling. He understands, He knows and He’s holding on. He hasn’t let go- and He’s not going to.

I knew He could do it, I know He can still do it- whatever the situation may be. I believed and believe. I hoped and I hope.

And when the tears come and the hope feels it has turned into shards of broken glass that still small voice whispers,

Child, you are not wrong. 

as He wipes the tears away.

Because there is nothing impossible for our God. Nothing too hard. Nothing too big. Nothing too much. Or too little.

In a fallen world, horrible things happen that were not apart of God’s original plan. And with all of my schooling and study I cannot say for certain why God chooses to move and to stay His hand.

I hope in and I trust a Sovereign, Holy, Loving and Just God who did not create us to destroy us, but to give us a hope and a future, an eternal home.

A last thought.

I was wondering one evening, if this reckless hope would one day dissipate all together? I mean you hear stories of burnout. Of the last straw.

What would the consequences be of recklessly putting all of your heart in, all of the time?

Certainly, there was pain. I wondered, worried, if that chipping was slowly picking away at my hope filled heart. That one day a puncture would go too deep, that my hope would become less than “complete.”

Ironically, I worried that one day I would be less “taken by surprise.”

I had been in that black pit once, I have no desire or intention of going back. Not even the tiniest bit. I could sit down and rest, but there would be no back tracking. That, my heart couldn’t take.

My personal reflection was clearly not getting me anywhere so I took a minute and passed it on to the One whose thoughts are higher than my own. And I got a picture (further proof He understands me- and my appreciation for visual learning aids!)

I pictured my heart, the way I had been “imagining” it before- a chipping from the outside. But then it changed.

Duh. The chipping was not on the outside. It was on the inside.

The chipping may hurt, but growth usually does. Long story short, it was making my heart deeper- not smaller. Capable of holding more, not less.

Child, you are not wrong. 

His picture of immediate victory may vary from mine- but my hope has never been misplaced. He is working, and He is winning. Actually, He has already won.

I cannot see the big picture from down here. But I trust Him. Meanwhile, I pray friends that you will not fear recklessly hoping, always. Because you are not wrong.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Romans 15:13 (NIV)

Words Worth Treasuring

“When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”

Luke 2:17-20

2020. In a handful of hours it will have officially arrived.

I love New Years, I really do.

While I am a staunch believer in the fact that any goal can start anywhere at anytime, month and date aside, there is something about New Years.

You can feel the expectation in the air.

It is the one time of year where we as a society really sit down and think about who we want to be and what we want to do.

For most adults, its the one time of year where we really let ourselves dream, as we imagine and envision the futures we wish to seek.

Think about it.

Impossible goals suddenly become possibly possible and a determination runs through our veins.

Those things our past selves could “never” achieve, our coming selves just might be able to accomplish.

And it is a beautiful thing.

Don’t get me wrong, I am queen of setting goals which are usually not fully met. (However, I run on a strong foundation of shoot for the moon and land among the stars, sort of mentality.)

And I think that is okay. The idea is to move forward. If you happen to take over the world at the same time, great. Meanwhile, keep moving.

Unfortunately many of us once realizing that we might not make the finish line in the time or shape we felt we should have made it in- are prone to stop moving.

We start to let words of doubt and a harsh “reality” shout above the calm, steady and passionate voice of hope.

It happens to all of us somewhere at some point. And it may knock you down for a week, a month, a year…

But- I pray that eventually the calm, steady, excited voice of hope will call to your heart again.

As we move into this New Year, I pray that you dare to dream impossible dreams.

I pray that you would dare to answer the call which the Lord has placed on your life.

I pray that you would realize that no goal or dream is too small nor too big. If it weighs on your heart, I pray that you embrace it.

Most importantly, I pray you step into this New Year like Mary.

Like Mary, I pray that you carefully choose the words you treasure and ponder in your heart. Let the ones which tell you to sit back down fall away, and take the hand of those which call you to step forward.

Like Mary, I pray that you seek God in the center of your plans, dreams and goals and when God calls you to a path that takes an unexpected turn, I pray that you have the courage to bravely take that step- turning to His Word continuously.

It’s a good Word to treasure.

I cannot wait to see you all in 2020! We are going to be doing  exciting things in 2020 and I cannot wait to share them with you! As always, please share any prayer requests and praise reports! We will pray and praise the Lord alongside you as we enter this New Year and you prepare to take on those mountains which you are anointed and intended to conquer!

Shout out to the Christian Planner family and The Hero’s Journal for providing these amazing tools for journaling and tracking types, as myself! 🙏 ⚔️🙌

https://christianplanner.com

https://theherosjournal.co

God’s Gift

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call him Immanuel.”

Isaiah 7:14

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace; and with his wounds we are healed.”

Isaiah 53:4-5

I love Christmas cards. I always have.

I have held onto every single one I’ve ever received, ever.

Including this one pictured above. This is a new card believe it or not. I received it from my Bible study leader a few weeks ago.

Of course, it looked a bit different when I first received it. It was perfect, actually.

Then one night the piece of tape displaying it failed me and in the time between it’s falling and my discovery- Reyna found it. (For those who do not know Reyna, she is a just turned 1, 86 pound, fluff ball/ puppy.)

And my beautiful card was crafted into a mess of confetti.

But as I disappointedly picked up the shredded pieces of my lovely card, I came across this final bit.

And I kid you not, I almost threw it away. To be honest I threw it away.

But as I turned away, I reached back and I picked it up, wanting to read the words one more time.

The whole time my world driven vision told me it was a piece of trash. Tarnished. Embarrassing. It would be absurd to hold on to it. Let alone put it back up. Forget the fact I had just grabbed it from my trash can, Lord help me if anyone ever found out.

But… that still small whisper. You know the Christmas story is a lot of things. And if we are honest, those things are tarnished and embarrassing.

Mary was pregnant before she was married- let’s talk about that reputation.

And then she gave birth in a barn. I’ve noticed that never caught on as a trend.

Yet… that story, that beloved and holy Christmas story, is beyond the definition of perfect.

There’s not a single word to fully express the magnitude and the glory of that tarnished and embarrassing story.

In fact, you could string a thousand words together, and just of clipped the iceburg.

We are a couple days past Christmas Day, and I hope yours was perfect. However, if it wasn’t perfect according to Hallmark standards (and I get it- I love Hallmark), I hope you can see that gifts, time and life aside- the victory of that day is never failing.

On a side note, I know many returned to work today, some worked Christmas Day, and those who are off are probably counting down the days subconsciously before they have to return.

Some may have balanced the checkbook today, did school work or cleaned the house.

My point is, as we move past Christmas Day, I pray we will remember to carry it with us.

It’s so hard when it feels as if so little has changed. The world acts as if all is as it has always been.

The angel spoke to Mary. Joseph had a dream. The shepherds heard the angels sing. The wise men saw the star. And the world… the world acted as if all was as it had always been.

As I was in town yesterday running some errands I felt I could see the world acting as if nothing had changed. The store lights, in contrast to Wednesday, were back on. (Never mind some stores did not bother to turn them off at all).

And it dawned on me. We try so hard to bind Christmas to one day. We make it a box, hand it over and say “get in,” forgetting that the reality of Christmas is beyond our comprehension, let alone our box making skills.

Christmas is the time we celebrate when Jesus stepped out of the box, and into the manger. And that celebration continues all year long. It’s a priceless gift freely given, and no sale price can cheapen or negate it. No deal can sweeten it. No amount of time can tarnish or lessen it.

It’s already everything, and then more than we can imagine. As we live in a world that acts as as if nothing is changed; we hear the angels sing, we see the star and we know- that everything has changed. We see it in the pile of dishes, the chaotic filling of email inboxes and in our chewed and torn Christmas cards.

❤️ Merry Christmas friends! My prayers and thoughts are with you all as we finish one year, one decade, and head into the next.

Living Water

And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”

Acts 8:36 (ESV) 

I debated for years… I had been baptized as an infant in the Lutheran Church- which would lovingly raise me for the entirety of my childhood.

Consequently I had also been through confirmation at 13.

In conclusion I had given my life to Christ. I even had documentation.

But as I began moving towards pursuing a career in full time ministry, the internal nudge to get baptized grew.

Let me clarify that this was not because I believed I needed to be baptized to be saved. Jesus saved me the moment I asked him into my heart. Being baptized was not a way to “level up.”

Also, it was not because I felt my Lutheran baptism and upbringing had failed me in any way. On the contrary, I grew up strong in my faith, I had fantastic Godparents and it was that faith community that planted in me the seeds which would eventually bring me back to God after enduring a dark period.

The dark period.

What nudged me, personally, to be baptized was the dark period. While I knew I was saved, that my baptism hadn’t been “nullified” in any way… it occurred to me that I had fallen away from faith for a period of time.

I had never stopped believing in God or Jesus- but we certainly were not on speaking terms for a good two years.

God would knock and I would develop selective hearing.

As I moved out of that dark period and began to feel the call back towards my first love and pursuit, Ministry- every time I went to step out on the water, I hesitated.

This hesitation kept me in the boat for two additional years, and then in 2017 I finally made the jump, as God opened the doors that led me to being enrolled into a Masters in Ministry program. I say I jumped, I think He may of helped with a bit of a push.

Unfortunately, the doubts didn’t stop once I stepped out onto the water. There was one reoccurring thought that I offered to God every night, a question that waged war inside of me-

God I failed you, when things got hard, I ran. I fell and I fell hard. How can you really be calling me now? Can You really be calling me now? I’m not good at this, I’ve proven I’m not good at this… 

It wasn’t that I needed further assurance in God, I needed assurance in myself.

Peter encountered this. He had ran. And I believe he struggled internally with this, even with Jesus’ forgiveness after His resurrection.

So Jesus asked Peter 3 times if he loved Him. By the third time I can imagine Peter’s despair, he already doubted his own worth and now it may seem Jesus questioned it too. However, as Peter confirmed his love for the Lord, Jesus did not say “Oh, good just checking,” Jesus told Peter to feed and care for his sheep.

Jesus was putting Peter in charge. The man who ran away had a calling– Care for the sheep, because more dark days are coming, but no darkness can compete with the glory that will follow.

Peter vocally confessed his faith to the Lord and the other disciples who were present (including the self proclaimed, “one whom Jesus loved” John… Side Note: I love reading John 💁🏻‍♀️).

The point- Peter made a public declaration in front of other believers. So God put it in my heart. Do you love me? Yes Lord.

And I decided, that like Peter, I had to declare it- publicly in front of other believers. Not necessarily to the benefit of God- but because I needed assurance that I was officially shedding the days of running. God already believed in me. I needed confirmation in my own heart.

When I was originally baptized and confirmed I had not yet experienced how dark this world could be.

I knew now. This time when I made my declaration, I knew exactly what I was getting into. For as Pete and Jesus continued their conversation Jesus stated:

“Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” John 21:18

Why? Verse 19 tells us-

“Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “‘Follow me!’” John 21:19

Pete knew dark days. Jesus clarified that more dark days were coming.

And Jesus clarified that He knew Pete could handle the coming dark days. Pete’s running days were done.

So as the Ethiopian exclaimed in the verse at the top, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” I asked myself what is stopping me from being baptized?

In revelation- I knew nothing good was keeping me from making my public declaration. No, that was the work of fear and self-consciousness- of what others would think… or say…

As I was preparing to take the next step- (still hesitating but decidedly hesitating) God sent the people He knew I would need to support me in my journey to the pool.

While he sent several absolutely necessary individuals, there is one pictured in the photo below to my left.

Her name is Averie and two years ago we stood in a baptismal pool as I “took the plunge” and she helped me up (ironically by pushing me down- under water).
Today she is in Africa with a team of amazing individuals (from what I hear) on an 11 month mission trip. She is almost 3 months in- and I miss her terribly… but I am also incredibly proud of her.

I’ve included a link to her blog below.

1. So you can offer her and her team prayers as they continue their journey and embrace Matthew 28:19. What gift she afforded me in standing beside me as I was baptized two years ago, she is now giving to others in nations I can barely pronounce. My heart is full.

2. So you read her crazy stories, see her teammates and of course check out the pictures- they are stunning.

3. And so, if you are able, help sponsor her mission and the movement of Kingdom business as she and her team leave behind the comfort of home with feet covered in the readiness given by the gospel of peace. The widow threw in 2 copper coins- and we remember her today because God can take a little and change the world- in fact it’s His favorite thing. $5 dollars can go further than you ever dared imagine.

Averie’s World Race Blog

As always all of my thoughts and prayers are with all of you. Please feel free to message me or comment below.

For those of you who may be considering being baptized, or re-baptized, I implore you to pray about the decision and speak with a(the) faith mentor(s) in your life. Let God direct your heart, laying aside all other concerns aside from His thought on the matter. His is the voice to follow.

I was given a certificate and photo from my baptism- which I had framed and it now hangs in my “office.”

I have 6 degrees, a handful of rewards and professional certifications-  and I would trade them all for this one. For added all together they are but dust in comparison to living water.

Thank you mrjn Photography on Unsplash for photo!

 

We Who Have Hope

 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.

1 Thessalonians 4:13 (NIV)

8 months.

8 months since Mom’s earthly life ended and her eternal life began.

How we cried.

How Heaven cheered.

Not only a Mom, but a Wife,Daughter, Sister, Aunt, Teacher, Friend…

The titles she carried are endless just as the light she left behind is

The heartache has been acute this past week, coming in waves. It seemed they came without ceasing. One wave would break as another came in to push me back under.

I missed Mom, I missed Jamie, I missed Grandpa… Aunt Ruth… this list could extend out excessively…

And I know that everyone skimming through this post has their own list, their own list of cherished loved ones no longer on this side of Heaven.

Loved ones who withstanding the amount of time they have been gone, still seem to have, contradictorily, been gone a moment and yet an eternity- at the same time.

And the truth is that the waves never fully cease. Complete healing is not possible this side of Heaven. There are several moments when as wave after wave breaks it feels as if you’ve gone under and you are unable to break the surface. Drowning in grief, a deep murky darkness enclosing you.

But then… Jesus.

Ironically enough- my homework led me to the reminders and encouragement I needed. Reading through 1 Thessalonians for an assignment, I could hear that still small voice.

And I decided to camp there for a while, part of me taking comfort in the fact that the Thessalonian believers had needed the same encouragement back in the 1st Century as I did in the 21st Century.

Many of those in the Thessalonica Church had been gentiles in a Greco-Roman culture before they encountered Jesus through the words of His disciples. The Greco-Roman culture had little belief or hope in any sort of resurrection. So much so, that many tombs and grave markers attempted to belittle or make light of a person’s passing and consequently, life.

I’ve included a screenshot from one of my textbooks below that personally, I had to reread several times.

(Bruce W Longenecker (2019). (p. 367). Thinking through Paul: A Survey of His Life, Letters, and Theology.)

“I was not, I was, I am not, I care not”…

My heart cannot fathom a life devoid of hope. Without the hope of Christ, I would crumble.

Because I care, I care about seeing my Mom again and seeing my Best Friend again and all of my loved ones…

I care because I have not moved on. And the truth is I will not move on.

The same week that the waves were coming and my school assignment seemed to align with divine intervention… a TED Talk appeared on Facebook page…

Just to be sure I got the message loud and clear.

In the words of Nora McInerny, “I’ve not moved on… but I’ve moved forward with…”

I encourage everyone to hit the link below and watch this video. It is 4 minutes. 4 minutes of a message that, whether you need to hear it today or to bookmark it for a future day, you will not regret stopping to listen.

This past week we planted mums at Mom’s bench. The waves didn’t come so much that day. There was peace. And there was hope. Because in Jesus Christ we no longer have to grieve as those without hope.

That does not mean we do not grieve, just that as we grieve we recognize deep down it is a momentary separation awaiting eternal joy.

Thessalonians we get it- the struggle is real.

Paul we hear you- our hope is real, and our eyes are set.

Jesus we love you- thank you for loving us first.

Nora continues her talk, stating that “We need to remember, and help each other remember, that grief is a multitasking emotion…”

In this broken world we grieve, we move forward but we are not called to move on- we are called to rely on our hope.

We Don’t “Move on” from Grief. We Move Forward with It

 

 

In the Silences

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Ephesians 6:13-17

I have officially passed the halfway mark for this summer.

In the middle of my internship and my classes, trying to stay ahead no on… trying to stay above the sea of a schedule, I have searched for the boundaries. Walking on water yet drowning in what ifs, how cans and papers… lots of papers.

And then this week- there was a reckoning.

My personal beliefs, foundational truths and heart of all I know was called into question. Challenged. Attacked.

Do you really… think? believe? Defend… why? how?

You stand alone. Against a world of opposition. A world tells you all the reasons you must be wrong.

Crumble. Cave. Call it.

Back out gracefully. If you must believe, believe quietly. And secretly think that maybe you are no longer certain.

My soul hurt and was exhausted. It was a brutal exercise, pushing me to my limits.

But like most physical workouts that push you to your limits- the time comes shortly afterwards where you look back on what you just survived. What you just accomplished. And there is a joy. An exhausted and often times sore joy, but joy.

And as I drove in the silence between location A and B, as hard as the battle was, as harsh the beating… I realized as the dust settled that my foundation was unshaken.

My absolute truths stood. My deep personal beliefs had come out tender yet unscathed.

And I realized the power in that discovery.

I had carefully weighed the opposition. I had reflected and fully taken in the thoughts set before me.

I recognized the parts that were true and I proposed they weren’t wrong but perhaps I was still right. The ends connected.

Knowing what you believe at your deepest core…

there is a hope there.

And hope is a power this world does not know how to completely defeat.

This week it was reaffirmed that I do not have all the answers.

Yet I have all the answers that I need. In a world that tries its hardest to keep you from believing, I believe. In the face of standing alone, I still stand.

I have never known myself more deeply than now. Not only knowing what I believe- but knowing I believe my beliefs when challenged, pushed and questioned.

As I drove in the silence I could feel the dust settling, my head rising and the tears falling. Not in defeat or lack of faith but in thankfulness.

To have a faith that is rooted and grounded in the love of God. A faith that did not fail.

And I know that this is only the beginning of a career. As Christians, we will continuously be called out into the arena and onto the battlefield.

And I know that I will answer that call. Because as painful as it was, I found something there and now I know- that I can.

Here’s to the silences and to the end of the silences here on this page! (I am working on those “time boundaries” and believe I have finally discovered my balance) 💁🏻‍♀️

Also that 90 day physical challenge is still going strong! 🙌

Take in the silences after the fire.

Refining is a difficult and painful process.

Refining is also a beautiful and encouraging process.

—— Writing In the Silences —–

It is here.

In the silences…

After the battle…

…that the disciple on their knees takes their first deep breath.

And than notices their tears.

For they have survived…

Every belief, thought and foundational truth attacked, challenged and covered in dust.

But as the dust settles they see…

They see the Sovereign God who incomprehensibly loves them, though they continuously fall short of glory.

They see the God who fought the fight beside them and in them.

And as the dust settles they see the evidence of the defeated enemies that have fallen.

The horizon clears and they lift their head and see the piles of useless weapons that came against them.

Covered in dust and sweat and blood and tears it is in the silences they see.

The spiritual battle they have fought.

And their weapons.

The sword of the spirit. The shield of faith.

Battle worn, but unchanged.

In the silences they decide they will fight again.

In the deep breath they decide they will continue the race.

Sword in one hand. Shield in the other.

In the silences…

They rise.

 

*Photo Credit and thanks to Austin Ban on Unsplash

 

Tried & Trying

“Though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.”

Psalm 37:24 

 I once had a mentor tell me that it took an average of 22 attempts for a person to quit smoking.

22 tries at briefly achieving and then falling off the wagon. 21 falls and 22 rises. And that is an average, which means some took less attempts… while others took more.

What strength is that to fall and fail and fall again, yet at some point reaching a period where you dust yourself off and you continue to try?

This fun fact was shared with me on Tuesday.

And then on Wednesday I received a “Last Day to Sign Up” email from a motivational group I follow- 90 Day Workout challenge.

I am not sure if I have reached or surpassed 22 attempts at regularly exercising, but I can tell you I feel I am definitely in the ballpark. And the sad thing is I love feeling healthy and having energy. I enjoy running, at the very least I enjoy hiking and doing things that generally require strength to a certain degree.

And it was just last week I was explaining to my sister that I did not like the gym. And I didn’t want to go to a gym.

But I do want to get into better shape. And with the MS, my doctor highly suggests that regular, healthy, daily exercise is beneficial and at times essential.

So the email arrives. 90 Day Challenge. At home workouts. Last Day to Sign Up.

Oh and Level 1…

Free.

So in a split decision on my lunch break- I signed up. Fully committed? I wanted to be. Think about it later and change my mind? Hopefully not.

The more I thought about it I could feel an outside thought whispering I was too busy, that it wasn’t fair to put this pressure on myself, why couldn’t I be happy with all I was already doing… However, the more I thought about it, the more I also remembered all the reasons I knew it was worth another try.

And through all the naysaying I could feel the small still voice that had encouraged me to sign up continue to get excited. Because what is better than reaching a goal?

Making a goal.

And what solidifies this goal today? What makes me want to write a post and share it on my online journal space, to let all who read know I am starting a 90 Day Workout Challenge?

Thursday morning when I was getting up and getting ready for work I wandered onto Facebook (I know, I know) – and the first thing I saw on my newsfeed- Run for the Soul, September 28th at the Columbus Zoo.

The same race I attempted to run in 2017, following my August diagnosis of MS.

The same race which encouraged me to take to the sidelines.

The same race that almost broke me.

Now the race’s victory was short lived and I made a fairly quick come back, running a race that October. And I have committed to fearlessly doing all the things, as well as I can, regardless, since. However…

I cannot help but draw a parallel between the timing of the challenge and the timing of the race. Call it coincidence. Call it me being unnecessarily dramatic or imaginative. Call it me having really loved my last t-shirt from that race (because I did and still do)…

But Attempt #22, here we come.

And my friends, I do not know what you have attempted time after time with temporary success, but please remember failure is only permanent when we fail to try- and to try again.

 

Step Out – Jump In

 “Yes, come,” Jesus said.

Matthew 14:29 

Step Out Jump In.

If your best friend jumped off of a bridge, would you?

I remember hearing this question as my best friend and sisters and I were not often, but occasionally, in need of a wise and correcting lecture. Of course this question stemmed from the fact that we were generally all in the same boat, in an essence “we all had jumped in together” though one of us had assuredly gone first.

And then one day my best friend Jamie and I actually did jump off a bridge. (Into a lake. While camping. Not incredibly large. A ton of fun. Note though still a bit a ton of trouble when the Moms found out.)

It is one of my favorite and most treasured memories. Climbing up to the top, standing on the edge side by side and then that last look as we stepped off. We could have taken on the whole world, at least we felt we could see the whole world from way up top. A few nerves, but no fear, not when your best friend is at your side. The sun shining and that water. Having the courage to jump led to the greatest of personal triumphs at the time. (Before the Moms found out that is- but that is not the moral we are going to discuss today.)

The moral of the story today is that sometimes in life, when Jesus calls us to come, we may not be stepping out of the boat in faith- but jumping out- in faith.

I graduated from OSU with a duel bachelor’s in Animal Science and Agricultural Business  and was blessed with an incredible job. It was hard work and long hours. But on the daily I enjoyed the work I did, enough. The people were great and we had fun when we could.

But something was missing. After two years having discussed, debated and weighed the possibility I was feeling a call to completely change my entire career, and education. All of it. After all of those years, still paying the student loans. Changes that would entail;

A dramatic decrease in my income.

A dramatic undertaking in my schedule.

A dramatic change… period.

From Agriculture to Ministry.

Soooo I dragged my feet. I assured myself I had misunderstood- I had misunderstood the call to come. He wouldn’t call me. I am not… (insert varying and lengthy list here of faults and failings). And then I would second these thoughts by recognizing all of the impossibilities; bills, location, education, finances, time… did I mention bills?

It was a really great rebuttal. I must say. Defense lawyer status 10/10.

Blessedly, though, I lost the case.

After three years I finally jumped out of the boat.

I jumped, not stepped. When I attempted to step out of the boat, I generally hesitated. And that hesitation usually caused me to bring my foot back in, running through my 10/10 rebuttal until God would bring me back around again. No as I stood there the moment came when I realized I had to jump, leaving no opportunity to turn back. If I was going in I had to go all in, full commitment.

And all the things I knew would happen- happened.

Dramatic change in income. Dramatic undertaking in my schedule. Dramatic changes all around- the expected and the unexpected.

And I had never been happier. I had never felt more on track. I had never felt more productive. Chasing the call. Leaving fear behind for freedom. I was significantly poorer and significantly busier. But- I was also significantly less burdened and significantly happier. Not abandoning my responsibilities; yet not deafening the call.

And so I have continued to step out of the boat when called, jumping if needed. Sometimes the process still entails my attempts at a rebuttal, but I with so many past experiences, it does not take quite as long for me to accept that I may be the one he is actually calling. It can be scary, but scary I believe is often just the darker connotation of unknown possibility, opportunity and excitement. Reaching for the stars is not easy, but to try and fail is fulfilling in a way that to not try at all could ever be.

In the words of C.S. Lewis, “You are never too old to set a new goal, or dream a new dream”. And seconded by F. Scott Fitzgerald, “For what it’s worth… it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing…. I hope you live a life you’re proud of , and if you are not, I hope you have the courage to start over”.

That day on the bridge standing beside my best friend, I learned one of the greatest life lessons. I could of stood on that bridge forever (or at least until dinner time) and ran through hundreds of 10/10 rebuttals… but what possibility waited on the other side of the jump made all of them null. Stand on bridge vs. An adventure with my best friend? And the sooner I jumped, the sooner the adventure could begin.

I knew I wasn’t going in alone. Someone else was going to be there. And that someone… well I would have gone wherever the adventure took us, 100%. Today, Jamie and I’s adventures look a bit different- I look forward to the day we can compare notes. Meanwhile when I am called from time to time to jump, I know I am not called to jump alone.

Jesus will not call you to where he is not willing to be. The Creator of best friends- is your best friend- guarding your back, while being one step ahead…

But most importantly standing at your side turning to you with a smile and asking “Ready?”

 

The Good Shepherd

The Good Shepherd

Story heard and shared by Charlie Musser and retyped by Brittany Shears.

There once was a father who had a son he loved dearly and who he took great joy in. While the father had intended to give his son the world, unfortunately the family’s flock had fallen in disarray due to the lies of their greatest rival. The father had created and nurtured the flock and though he did not need the flock he treasured them and sought to restore them.

Seeing his father’s grief the son volunteered to go out and help make the way for the flock to return to the father. Though the way came at great cost, the son succeeded in his mission and the way was made. The entire household rejoiced at such a victory. The flock was finally able to be restored and the son became known as the good shepherd.

Overtime though the son found some of the flock refused to finish crossing the path he had set, for they feared the creek they would have to cross. Although the grass was clearly greener and plentiful on the other side they stayed along the bank. Though only feet away, they remained lost in the rival’s territory.

The good shepherd was desperate. He walked along the flock calling them by name and encouraging them to cross. Some looked at him with hope in their eyes that was slowly diminished by their own fears and decision to stay safely along the bank. Others ignored him as they continued to do what they felt was best, eating the mediocre grass and staying a safe distance from the bank in complacency. And then there were those who were farthest from the bank living wildly and hostile towards the good shepherd when he approached. Regardless, none answered him.

He continued to walk through the flock hoping to find one who would brave the creek and enter into his father’s kingdom before darkness fell. Eventually he came across a newborn lamb. It looked up at the good shepherd and bleated in excitement of being alive and seeing this new friendly face. The good shepherd knelt down and as he pat his head he had an idea.

“Would you cross the creek my friend?” He asked the little lamb. The lamb looked up at the good shepherd a moment longer then bowed his head. The good shepherd knew the lamb could not cross on her own, but he could carry her. So he gathered the lamb and gently carried her to the bank of the creek. Quickly the mother of the lamb took notice and began to loudly protest drawing the attention of the others.

The good shepherd turned and reassuringly called “Follow me,” and he continued his journey across the creek into the greener pasture of his father’s kingdom. As the good shepherd gently laid the lamb down he turned to the sound of the mother jumping into the creek and crossing over. He smiled as she reached him and her lamb and rejoiced that she had made it home. As the good shepherd looked up he saw the father quickly crossing as well and behind him several others began to wade in and make their way.

By nightfall the entire flock had safely made it home into his father’s kingdom.

As the flock ran and jumped with joy in excitement for their new home the good shepherd noticed the mother sheep beside her lamb. The good shepherd walked over and sat beside the mother who eyed him curiously as he pat her head. “I am sorry to have had to put you through that. But I know what it is to suffer a great cost for a greater good. I realized that I would have to take one to the other side so the entire flock would follow. I know your separation was painful but I assure you, your little lamb has won a great victory for the kingdom- for now you, your lamb and the entire flock have entered into my father’s glory where there is no more sorrow and no more separation”.

Moral of the Story: Sometimes God will take one to the other side so the entire flock will follow.

 

Indivisible

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

John 17:20-23

 

Abraham Lincoln pleaded for it, Helen Keller proposed it and J.K. Rowling wrote about it. Gandhi believed in it, Henry Ford franchised it and Martin Luther King Jr. fought for it.

And Jesus, Jesus prayed for it.

Unity.

It is not something that many of us generally take into consideration but is absolutely essential in every relationship we have. Let alone in our general heart-ittude towards humanity.

Think about it- take a moment- what would you pray for if you knew it’d be your last prayer? At least your last prayer before everything fell apart. Possibly your last prayer on this side of heaven.

What would you pray for?

What do you think Jesus would pray for?

I can honestly confess when this question was first posed to me, my initial guess was wrong. And the answer hit my heart hard. Because while I may have been striving to love and serve and lead a life I felt fit in the guidelines- I could not recall ever taking unity specifically into consideration. I suppose I always assumed it was a byproduct of all the other things. Surely it would follow when I acted on those other principles.

I had never connected the dots that it was literally Jesus’ last prayer before he was arrested. He had fallen on the ground distraught not hours earlier, pleading with his Father, begging for his life; but not my will – let yours be done.

However that moment before it all began, before that hellacious day took place in order to achieve a heavenly victory Jesus didn’t pray for further strength. Although his eyes were probably still red from his earlier desperation, he didn’t call down the legion of angels on stand by. No concern on his own behalf passed his lips.

Unity.

Thanks to John we know the who, what and why in Jesus last prayer with his disciples.

Jesus prayed for believers then and believers to come.

          “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one”

He prayed for their unity.

“-so that they may be brought to complete unity”

So that all would know they are loved.

                “Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

His greatest concern, his final plea to heaven – was for you and for me and for every believer to live in unity. To never feel alone. To know that they were loved. To know that they had a family always by their side and continuously on call. Highs and lows. Thick and thin.

And you want to know what made my heart practically stop?

What was it about this prayer that could be anymore astounding than it already was?

The revelation- that Jesus prayed this prayer, that he pleaded in full faith to the Father, that we would never feel alone….

Moments before he would experience the greatest depth of loneliness and desertion ever to be felt.

His friends would flee.

Every advocate would hide.

And His Father would turn away.

Wrecked.

As we celebrate Memorial Day and remember those who have given it all for all that we enjoy in the United States of America. As we remember those who believed in the good in this world and believed it was worth fighting for, even if the cost was their life- I hope we can all lean in a little closer.

Every year the division in our nation seems to be escalating. And as Lincoln stated, a house divided cannot stand. Aside from arguing, hurt feelings and high emotions not much is accomplished. Apart from the name calling and finger pointing we’ve spent more time in congressional “time outs” than in investing and supporting one another.

The point of this post is not to say who is right and who is wrong. I am not calling one out over the other. I am calling us together. My prayer is that of Jesus all those years ago.

Because those men and women didn’t fight for one over the other, they fought and fight for all. Basic human rights endowed by our creator.

Indivisible under God.

This Memorial Day lets redirect and realign, remembering those things which truly matter.